Stephen McIntyre and Global Warming Believer’s Ethics

This is a historical post.

In my previous posts I explained how I started to research Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) claims, how I found a lot of very bad arguments amongst AGW Deniers, and how I also found some, but very few, AGW Denier arguments with merit. In this post, I’m going to more directly attack the other side now by explaining some of the things AGW Believers do that are of questionable ethics. 

Now, as you can imagine, by this point in my search for the truth I was tearing my hair out with anger and frustration. I felt like I couldn’t trust either side at all and, worse, the conservative side that I was partial to was often using arguments that made them look not only unethical but also incompetent. Was my only choice between tweedledum (republicans) and tweedledee (democrats.)!? 

I remembered that Orson Scott Card had written an article that mentioned an AGW Skeptic named Stephen McIntyre. He was also mentioned in The Great Global Warming Swindle. According to those two sources, McIntyre proved that the first pro-AGW model was bad and based on a software bug. [Note: Geoff informs me that this was actually the basis for the original hockey stick graph.] 

Feeling like I was wasting my time with other sources, I decided to Google Stephen McIntyre and see what he had to say. It turned out he runs a website. The current incarnation can be found here

Being partial to the “skeptic” point of view –- though quickly losing confidence in the AGW Deniers ability to use good arguments — I really wanted to find a AGW skeptic I could trust. At a minimum, I hoped to find out that not all AGW Deniers used lame arguments like the CO2 vs. Water Vapor argument –- thus proving they had no idea what they were talking about. 

It turns out that Stephen comes across very sincere and very knowledgeable — much more so that anyone I had found up to that point. He just wants to “audit” the AGW Believers data to give it much needed criticism. Stephen claims he only wants to make sure that climate models are not mistaken (or worse, falsified). But he says he’s open to honest dialog and claims to have no agenda but getting the truth out, whatever it is. Of course we all, say that about ourselves, no matter how biased we are, but I wanted to give Stephen a chance. 

AGW Believers Are Rotten Liars – Apparently It’s True 

One of the arguments with merit I mentioned in my last post  is the The “They Lied So They Can’t be Trusted” Argument. At that time, I merely mentioned that both sides have been caught lying, so this seems to be more a problem with human nature rather than a problem with only one side. 

While I’m going to stand behind the pertinence of that argument, I still find myself asking “So what?” If you can’t trust a source of information, you can’t trust a source of information. The fact that the ‘other guys’ are even more untrustworthy doesn’t somehow increase the truth quotient for the AGW Believers. 

The fact is that AGW models seems to fall into two possible categories: correct ones I don’t understand, and incorrect ones I don’t understand. 

The end result is the same: if I can’t wholly trust AGW Believers, I’m unwilling to put my fate in their hands. Since going back to school and getting a PhD in environmental science isn’t really an option for me, this is a serious issue and I don’t blame the AGW Deniers one bit for not wanting to trust anything that the AGW Believers say. 

Consider the AGW Believers response to Stephen McIntyre. He successfully found that one of the models they used was based on a software bug. Did they thank him and correct it and publish the results? Nope. 

Instead, they launched an attack on Stephen McIntyre’s reputation, resulting in Stephen launching his Climate Audit website to defend himself. This should chill any AGW Believers reading this – that AGW Believers will try to ruin the reputation of even honest AGW Skeptics. 

Now I don’t buy the AGW Deniers argument that all AGW Believers are dishonest any more than I buy that all AGW Deniers are dishonest. Both sides are bad and both sides have honest adherents. (Thanks to the media, we hear mostly the bad.) But I’ll tell you this: I have no way to know the bad ones from the good ones. Just exactly why should I trust the AGW climate models if I can’t even trust that group to accept criticism from Stephen McIntyre. 

Now of course the fact that climate scientists don’t want to share their data with McIntyre is a very human response. They are distrustful of Stephen since he’s a skeptic and, since he was successful at making one of their own look bad in the past, they don’t want that to happen to themselves. This is understandable, but it’s also inexcusable. In the end, the AGW Believers refusal to “play ball” with McIntyre is a black mark on their record that seriously undermines their own position. 

What About Good Climate Models? 

The AGW Believers respond to my argument above by pointing out that one piece of bad data and a few bad human reactions doesn’t a disproof make. I agree. For a moment, look at the chart below that I have taken from one of my favorite blog sites: The Eternal Universe.  Make sure to read the original post as well. 

Graph That Proves AGW — If Only I Knew How They Came Up With It

I suspect that this graph above may well be accurate. It’s meant to demonstrates that it’s mathematically possible to account for how much of the temperature gains over the centuries can be accounted for by natural processes vs. man made ones. As you can see, the man made ones are the difference between the temperature staying steady and growing. 

This graphically explains why AGW should be taken seriously. 

But so what? I have no idea how to tell if I should or shouldn’t trust it. I comprehend the point being made. But I don’t really know if I would agree or disagree with the assumptions it’s based on. The simple truth is that climate models are, for all intents and purposes, inaccessible information to me. They might as well be a revelation from the gods. 

Yes, in theory, I could go learn the math and the science and check it out for myself. But that’s unrealistic. So it all boils down to “who can I trust”? In other words, science is too often faith based for the layman. 

This is precisely why the AGW Believers have so thoroughly shot themselves in the foot by attacking the skeptics — even the good ones — like Stephen McIntyre. 

The One Fact To Rule Them All 

I remember excitedly reading Stephen’s website (the old one, not the current one), thinking that at last I’d found a competent AGW Skeptic. My growing belief that AGW Deniers were wholly an incompetent bunch was quickly evaporating along with my shame over the dishonesty of the conservative arguments. I was starting to feel good about the conservative side of the argument again. 

And that is when the floor fell out from under me. 

You see, I came across an article on Stephen’s website that ended my research altogether. I knew I didn’t have to research any further after finding this article. My personal view on the “debate” was set, at least until there was new information disproving what I’d found on Stephen’s website. I literally didn’t need to know any more, so I could now quit trying to make sense of it all. [1]  

And what did I find? But that’s the topic for the next post. 

Notes 

[1] “…so I could now quit trying to make sense of it all.” This is the real reason I never got past more than a few hours of research. I discovered that Al Gore had turned out to be right about one (and probably only one) thing: the debate was over — at least for me.

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